Using flashcards for vocabulary drills or any other spaced repetition system is common knowledge for anyone taking a Japanese lesson in Singapore. After all, it is among the core ways to progress with your Japanese skills. However, most people do not know that there is a next step to this: transitioning from simple vocabulary to entire sentences. Get the lowdown on how to graduate from Japanese vocabulary and take the next big leap in your studies.
Is Studying With Japanese Sentences Right For Your Level?
Studying with sentence flashcards is not recommended for everyone as the difficulty of this method is inefficient for beginners. If you are still new to Japanese, the time it takes to look up unfamiliar grammar rules, words, and kanji could be better spent learning things you need to build your foundation first. Since intermediate and advanced learners already have the basics down and then some, they are more suited to get more serious about studying Japanese sentences and polishing their reading comprehension, which also benefits their other language skills.
For intermediate learners, it is recommended to add no more than three sentences into their deck a day and choose sentences that only add “+1” knowledge or new information to your brain to ensure your learning sticks. Advanced learners have free reign on how they wish to study sentences, whether by using pre-made lists or choosing them individually, and can add up to five or more sentences per day.
How To Study With Japanese Sentences
Once you have your deck built for your current level, it is important to pair it with a spaced repetition system that you like, as well as have a system for continually adding new sentences to your deck. With that out of the way, here are some tips for effectively studying Japanese sentences.
1. Define a right answer
It is generally simpler to define what is and isn’t correct regarding vocabulary words. However, this is not the case with sentences, which are far more complex and have many pieces of information each with many relationships among each other that can be interpreted in several ways. In other words, there are many ways of translating a sentence, and not completely knowing a sentence does not mean you are not learning.
Even a 70-80% understanding of a sentence can already be considered correct, as moving up from there to 100% will take a while. Within this gap, you will be more focused on picking up on small pieces of information, which is to be expected for more advanced learners. But for many learners, understanding a sentence to 80% will mean learning many things that help depict the bigger picture. Hence, instead of getting a sentence to 100% every time, it is better to focus on quantity instead of quality by understanding a couple or more sentences to 70-80%.
2. “Learn” the sentence
There are several types of sentences that you will encounter in your studies and each requires different actions.
You know virtually everything in these sentences, so feel free to add them to your deck. If there is still some new information you can learn from them, that makes them all the better.
You can still add sentences where you know nearly all of the grammar, vocabulary, and kanji, but make sure to look up the things you do not know and add them to your deck as well. For these sentences, it is best to focus on how words and the sentence itself go together.
It is recommended to move sentences in this category to a separate document or spreadsheet first and break them down into their individual components. Add these parts to your spaced repetition system, practice them, and revisit the sentences regularly to see if your understanding of them improves to 80-90%.
These sentences are not worth your time for now, so just skip entirely or add them to a “not ready yet” document or spreadsheet for future use.
3. Translate Japanese sentences to English
There are several best practices whenever you add a new sentence to your deck, such as the Japanese-to-English test wherein you have a card with a Japanese sentence on one side and you put its English equivalent in the other. For various reasons, this is much easier than doing the opposite, but also not as helpful and will not get you as close to speaking Japanese fluently. But since jumping directly into English-to-Japanese is a formidable hurdle, going this route first helps ease you into overcoming that speed bump.
4. Translate English to Japanese sentences
Once you’ve got the hang of Japanese-to-English cards, you can add another version of those sentences to a new deck by creating a copy of it and not simply editing what you have already made. That is because it is already part of a separate spaced repetition schedule that will not match your new version.
Studying English-to-Japanese sentences entails seeing an English sentence and translating it into Japanese, ideally by recording yourself speaking it too. After reviewing and checking your answer, listen to the recording and see if you got the pronunciation right. For more advanced learners, also check if you managed to nail the pitch accent and tones. Since you already know English pretty well, it is best to be more thorough with your learning here and aim to get as close to 100%.
Studying Japanese vocabulary is just the first step, and using sentences in your study is necessary to move beyond your current skill level and truly attain fluency. By studying sentences daily and consistently, things will eventually become much easier, and you will see a large improvement in your skills in just a few months.
Ready to take your Japanese to the next level? Japanese Explorer is here to help you get to where you want to be with your Japanese fluency with the help of our tailored classes taught by none other than native Japanese teachers who know the language best.
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